Arguably one of the UK’s finest original nine hole courses, Reigate Heath GC continues to play its part in spreading the word that nine is not only fine, but the ideal way to play golf for anyone whose time is too short for the full 18.
Following a tip off back in spring from past LGU President and R&A member Diane Bailey about the R&A’s new initiative, the R&A 9 Hole Championship, Reigate Heath GC’s Director of Golf Cliff Gough set up one of the club’s regular Wednesday afternoon nine hole roll up competitions as the qualifier for the club to enter a team in the pre-Open Championship final at Royal Birkdale. Competition was fierce, but Mark Weekes with 23 points and Pat Reed with 22 proved the cream of the crop.
However, as Cliff explained: “Sadly Mark’s corporate diary meant he couldn’t be there on both days, so the R&A agreed that a third placed member, James Molyneux, could play instead but they’d have to play as individuals, not a team.”
Reigate Heath member Pat Reed takes up the tale: “We had the opportunity on the Friday to see the course itself. The briefing and draw for Saturday’s groupings was at 17:30, followed by a cocktail party and celebratory dinner at Royal Birkdale. It was a truly memorable experience, and we hadn’t even started playing on the hallowed Open turf!”
She continued: “We were first out at 07:30 and while the official practice started on Sunday, we saw a number of top players practicing after we’d finished. It was an amazing experience with both the Captain of the R&A and the Captain of Royal Birkdale attending every function, an official starter on the 10th tee, and R&A marshals and officials on every hole to help ball spot and interpret rules. Even the world famous Claret Jug was on display at the Friday evening dinner and we were all given goody bags – the R&A had thought of everything!”
To encourage and promote nine hole golf at all golf clubs, the R&A intends that the 9 Hole Championship will be an annual event held just before The Open itself, and Pat Reed’s keen to help spread the word: “If my experience was anything to go by, this is going to grow and grow. It’s a great idea, and with so much pressure on people’s lifestyles and time, nine holes is the perfect answer for those who want to play golf – as Reigate Heath’s been demonstrating very successfully for over 120 years!”